A Fort Drum soldier who was wounded during a 2009 tour in Afghanistan was charged Friday with killing a four-month-old baby he and his wife were trying to adopt.
Jeffrey Sliker, 23, a native of Middletown, R.I., was arraigned Friday in Watertown City Court in northern New York on a second-degree murder charge in the death of Laurne Clark, who was also known as Mollie Sliker.
The child was found dead at Sliker's home Wednesday after his wife alerted authorities. An autopsy determined she died of a blunt-force head injury, and Sliker was arrested.
Through a public defender, Sliker waived a preliminary hearing and was ordered held until a bail hearing. He will enter a plea when the case is moved to Jefferson County Court.
Sliker and his wife had been looking after the baby since birth under a court-approved adoption, authorities said.
"The actual adoption should have been completed a couple of weeks ago and had been delayed for a reason I don't know," Watertown police Lt. Frank Derrigo said.
Sliker joined the Army in January 2008 and served in Afghanistan January 2009 to December of that year. Officials at the Fort Drum military post where he's been stationed since June 2008 said he earned various combat medals, ribbons and badges, including a Purple Heart for an unspecified battle injury.
An Associated Press photograph shows Sliker lying on a stretcher after being injured Aug. 19, 2009. An armored vehicle he and six others were riding in was hit an improvised explosive device in the Tangi Valley of Afghanistan's Wardak Province.
Sliker's 87th Infantry unit, the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, is currently deploying again to Afghanistan. "He was assigned to the rear and was not scheduled to deploy at this time," said Fort Drum spokeswoman Kae Young.
His brother said he wondered if his brother's service in Afghanistan, including sustaining a back injury and a concussion in that attack, may have been a factor in the baby's death.
"He might have had a nightmare and unfortunately he took it out _ not that he took it out on her _ it happened with her being there," Jim Sliker told WNYF-TV outside the courthouse.